It’s hard to believe three weeks have gone by already since we have been in Shanghai, advice search China with Brandon and Jen. We catch a flight today to Sydney as Brandon and Jen start to pack up the remainder of their belongings to fly back to Boise tomorrow. Although our week was a bit inhibited because BJ and Brandon were passing the flu back and forth (swine flu?), remedy from the looks of our photos we still managed to get out and about in Shanghai. It has definitely been an experience and it will be hard not to forget the little things like random people coming up to us wanting to take their photo with us just because we are foreigners, dodging the many many bicycles and scooters that are driving on either the wrong side of the road or the sidewalk, the yummy huge Chinese dinners and trying to eat chicken off the bone while using chopsticks, our very few butchered words that we learned in Mandarin like watermelon, the endless smog that looms even on the “clear” days, the huge smiles that we surprised people with when they were staring at us, the bar-b-que stand (or better yet, the pet store) connected to the back of a bicycle, the quality times with Brandon and Jen at Starbucks, pushing our way on to the metro, eating delicious noodle bowls for only $1, and of course the endless expanse of city life.
After reading some very vague descriptions on how to find the Moganshan Art District, and getting lost once along the way, we finally stumbled upon an old series of warehouses that have been converted into over a dozen contemporary art galleries and studios. Although it seemed like the perfect place for western tourists it wasn’t busy at all, aside from a handful of artists and art students. If you like art, this is a must see in Shanghai.
One evening Jen and Brandon took us to their favorite dumpling shop. Located down a walking only street (even though scooters and cars still pushed their way through) were a handful of street food vendors and restaurants. We approached a very long line and knew immediately that we had reached the dumpling stand. The menu . . . dumplings. That’s it. That’s all. But there’s a reason they can stay in business while just selling one product. They are delicious (once you wait for them to cool down). The best part about it was watching the “dumpling team” make them at the front of the shop. I’ve never seen hands move so quickly.
Yu Yuan Gardens
We spent last Saturday morning in the gardens of Yu Yuan square, also known as old Shanghai. The gardens were filled with ponds, small temples and houses, and many trees. Instead of plants or shrubs the decoration was designed around rocks and rocks stacked on rocks. It was extremely hot that morning so we sought out shade and somewhere to sit wherever we could. We must have sat down every ten feet to take a break next to the water.
We got out of the city of Shanghai on Sunday to head closer to the countryside to one of Jen and Brandon’s favorite weekend destinations, Hang Zhou. After a two hour train ride we found ourselves in another city, but a much cleaner and prettier city. Hang Zhou is centered on a huge lotus lined lake where you can stroll or bike along roads only busy with foot traffic and in the shade of many willow trees. It is also home to a huge Buddhist temple. We spent the first half of the day touring the temple and the second half along the water. It was a nice change to see so much greenery and only made us crave to see some of China’s true countryside. But that will just have to wait until next time.
Dancing in the Square
On our way back from Hang Zhou we got off at a train station in Pushi on the opposite side of the river from Jen and Brandon’s apartment. They had a very small restaurant in mind for dinner which was unusual for this big city. Most restaurants are huge, smoky, and extremely noisy but that’s how the Chinese seem to like it. You aren’t truly enjoying each other’s company unless you are yelling across a huge food filled table to one another. Before we went to our quaint family run restaurant, we stopped to experience a nightly occurrence in a park. Every evening in the same place in the same park someone sets up a couple speakers and starts playing music. Slowly couples, dancers, and non-dancers make their way out to the park to take part in a community dance. Couples twirl in a circle rotating around a statue and single woman dance a number of rehearsed dances in their own separate area. Jen and I were tempted to join in but couldn’t quite follow along.
Clear Night over Shanghai
We experienced only a couple clear days and nights in Shanghai. It shocked us on one night in particular to see lights so much further out than we had seen before. We had almost gotten used to not being able to see. We took advantage of the clear skies the following morning to ride up to the top of the World Financial Tower, which claims to have the tallest observation deck in the world. It was like having a bird’s eye view on the city and the city just seemed to go on forever.
Chinese Acrobat Circus
Probably our favorite touristy activity was the Chinese Acrobat Circus, which we saved for our last night of the few weeks we spent in Shanghai. It was totally entertaining and had me on the edge of my seat during most of the acts, making comments like “oh, great” and “what now” and “yeah right” as they would set up the next act. We had two favorite acts. The first was the flying couple. They would take turns wrapping their arms in two long sheets that hung from the ceiling, which would then lift them off the floor with the other partner attached to one of their extremities, and once just swinging through the air only holding on to a single flexed foot. The second favorite act was, of course, the motorcycle cage. It started with one motorcycle running in circles and upside down inside the spherical cage. Then they would add another and another until there were eight . . . EIGHT! . . . motorcycles riding around in the cage. We followed up the circus show with a very traditional dinner at Hagen Daz. I know, I know we should be closing the door on America over here, but you should have seen what we ordered. Hagen Daz in Shanghai is a sit down dining experience where servers come take your order at your table. We ended up with a five course dessert with ice cream, yogurt, cookies, fruit, cheesecake, and sorbet. Needless to say, we never ate nor needed dinner.
Thanks again Brandon and Jen . . . It’s been a fun month hanging with you two!! Good luck assimilating back into the American way of life!